Liz Cheney Refuses to Lie, So Elise Stefanik Steps Up

Ms. Stefanik, on the other hand … Most of America had never heard of the New York lawmaker before her emergence as a passionate Trump defender during his first impeachment. Her toadiness has only grown since, earning ever more love from Mr. Trump. On Wednesday, he endorsed her for conference chairwoman.

But before all that, Ms. Stefanik was seen as an exemplar of the kinder, gentler future of the Republican Party. Elected in 2014 at age 30, the polished, media-savvy Harvard alumna was a fresh, friendly, moderate face that many hoped would help the G.O.P. shed its image as a bunch of angry old white guys. Pro-business and uninterested in culture warring, she fit in well with the party’s establishment wing. Her first political job was in the Bush 43 White House. In 2017, she was elected co-chair of the Tuesday Group (since renamed the Republican Governance Group), a caucus of moderate, centrist House Republicans.

Ms. Stefanik’s voting record reflects this brand. She has a measly 44 percent lifetime score from the American Conservative Union — compared to Ms. Cheney’s 78 percent — and a 56 percent from the conservative Heritage Action, versus Liz’s 82 percent. Her ratings from conservative groups like FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth are even lower (37 percent and 35 percent), and both organizations have come out against her joining leadership. During Mr. Trump’s presidency, Ms. Stefanik voted with him 77.7 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight, but Ms. Cheney did 92.9 percent of the time.

One of Ms. Stefanik’s top priorities has been to improve her party’s image with women and, more specifically, to get more Republican women elected. Her PAC is credited with having contributed to the victory of several women in this year’s freshman House class. Her efforts, which can run up against the G.O.P.’s professed disdain for identity politics, have occasionally put off some party brethren.

Ms. Stefanik is, in short, the kind of Republican that conservatives generally love to hate.

Despite the seal of approval from Mr. Trump and some congressional leaders, not everyone is thrilled at the idea of Ms. Stefanik’s likely promotion. Some of her male colleagues have grumped that they were not even considered for the post because of their gender. The conference vice chair, Mike Johnson of Louisiana, has reportedly been griping about the “coronation.”

Trickier still, some hard-core MAGA loyalists suspect Ms. Stefanik of being a pretender — a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” as one far-right site put it — and are raising a stink about her voting record and political background. Lou Dobbs, the deep-MAGA former TV host, declared her a RINO — that is, a Republican in Name Only. Her more creative critics at the website Revolver coined a fresh term for her: TINO — Trumpist in Name Only. They also dubbed her “another neocon establishment twit.”

So much for Republican unity.

To be fair, having sold their soul to Mr. Trump, Republican lawmakers cannot allow Ms. Cheney to remain in leadership. Unlike most of her colleagues, she refuses to let the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol fade from memory, pretend it was no big deal or falsely claim that it was perpetrated by lefty extremists. Every word out of her mouth is an indictment not merely of Mr. Trump but of her fellow lawmakers’ degeneracy and opportunism.

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